OS Explorer (1:25000) sheet OL 31 North Pennines
OS Map Reference: NY998284 (southern end)
Aspect: west to south-west
Approach Time: 15 minutes
Words and pictures by Alan Dougherty August 2006
Situation and Character
The venue lies above and to the east of the B6278 Barnard Castle to Stanhope road, north of the village of Eggleston. It could be combined easily with a visit to the nearby Millstone Rigg. A rocky edge abounds in blocks and boulders. Although other problems might be found, three locations (see below) are of interest primarily to the climber. Discarded, partly finished, mill-stones, and evidence of wedge and feather working indicate that quarrying has taken place in the past. The rock is good quality Gritstone, which is a little lichenous at present but all of the problems were ascended without brushing. Many of the landings are rather poor so use of a bouldering-mat and careful spotting is needed. The outlook is of similar high quality to that of Millstone Rigg and the area is noted as a place for spotting birds of prey; you may well see one of the introduced Red Kites.
The location was noted by the Doughertys during post-CRoW ramblings and the described problems were climbed by Alan Dougherty and Maggie Ingram during August 2006.
Access and Approaches
Wheel Crag lies on moorland that is designated Access Land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. Under that Act the land can be subject to temporary closures of up to twenty-eight days a year. These are likely to be applied for during the Grouse nesting season. Notification of closures should be posted at Access Points locally and, prior to a visit, can be checked on www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk or via the Access Helpline on 0845 100 3298. Under the CRoW Act, dogs are banned on this moorland.
Leave Eggleston northwards on the B6278 (sign-posted Stanhope). Some 1.3km beyond the start of the open moorland (and a cattle-grid) a gated shooters’ track will be seen leaving to the right (east) of the road. Parking can be found in a lay-by a little further up the road. Follow the shooters’ track uphill, for about 1km, to where it bends due south. At this point follow a path (sketchy at first) northwards along the top of the escarpment towards the first block of interest (15 minutes from the car).
Some 300m north of leaving the shooters’ track, and adjacent to some stone shelters / possible butts is the Triangular Block. Prominent on the skyline and a further 300m or so further north is the Sheep-fold Block - just before this is reached, is the Slabby Block. From the Sheep-fold Block an additional 300m or so north brings one to the group of the Leaning, Undercut and Cave Blocks. Moving between the three locations will be found easier along the scarp-top path. The problems are described from right to left:
The first block of interest sports an overhanging south-west face:
Triangular Block, Wheel Crag (photo Carol Dougherty)
SS at right end of leaning, triangular, south-west face. A high heel-hook, to the right, around the aręte allows a tenuous move to gain a good lay-away.
Follow a SS at the left end of the face with a dynamic mantle-shelf / rolling move onto the adversely chambered slab.
4m 6a *
A strenuous left to right rising traverse culminating in an exciting swing around the aręte.
Just before the obvious Sheep-fold Block is reached, and opposite white farm buildings in the valley below, is a long boulder with a slab to one side:
Ascend directly to notch just right of the high-point of the slab.
Identified easily by its jutting prow and dry-stone walls is:
Stolen Aręte 3m 4a
The right-hand aręte of the south-west face.
Stolen Corner 3m 4c
1m left of Stolen Aręte is a corner with a couple of horizontal breaks – quite reachy moves to a jam.
These two problems were so named because Carol Dougherty had previously “lined them up,” only to be denied by injury!
1m left of Stolen Corner – straight up wall (keeping out of the niche feature to the left) to find a reassuring pinch-grip to assist the mantle-shelf finish.
Left a further 1m is a niche to half height. Climb through it to an off-balance, bold feeling mantle-shelf finish.
Sheep-fold Prow 5m HVS 4c *
Takes the jutting prow at the back of the sheep-fold! Good cams at two-thirds height but ground- fall potential from the finishing moves – beware the dry-stone wall.
APD and MI (30.8.06)
Left to Right Traverse 8m 5a
Start with feet at top of the sheep-fold wall – traverse the obvious horizontal break.
With some interesting erosion features, seen on the south side when approached from below, and opposite a small plantation in the valley is:
Maggie Ingram on the Leaning
Block, Wheel Crag (photo Carol Dougherty)
Delightful climbing follows the, sometimes hollow sounding, erosion features of the south side in a rising left to right traverse.
The leaning west face goes at 5a (APD 30.8.06) with excellent jugs.
Undercut at waist height and behind the Leaning Block is:
Cracked corner to right of hanging aręte.
Magic Jam 4m 5c
Pull up to a suggestion of a foot-hold at waist height – continue up the undercut aręte to find the magic jam.
Backseat Climbers 4m 5c /6a
Start below the tiny double overlaps on the impeding wall. First foot-hold is at shoulder height. Use a powerful rock-over to reach small pockets and mantle-shelf with “Thank God” edge at its rear. So named from the out-flowing of advice from CLD and MI!
1m left of Backseat Climbers is an undercut green crack. Approach by the slabby block below and avoid minor looseness at the mantle-shelf finish. Repressed cavers could try the SDS!
Traverse Time 4m 5c
Start as for the previous problem, step off the block and moving rightwards, attain a hand-hold above the horizontal crack line. Continue at same level using the initial foot-hold of Backseat Climbers and so around the corner – strenuous.
Identified by a cave beneath and a partly-cut, rocking mill-stone in front is:
Right-hand Aręte 3m 5a
Climb it – the block at the base is out-of-bounds.
1.5m left of Right-hand Aręte the wall has a faint scoop in its upper half. Climb directly through this feature – delightful.
1m further left. Start above the void, just to the right of the corner. Good pockets towards the finish and the obligatory awkward mantle-shelf. The Subterranean Start adds a strenuous technical grade or two.
Left of the corner is an obvious flake line.
There are other short possibilities further left but nothing of note beyond the scarp edge cairn.